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(Den Of Geek)   Michael Cimino shot 1.3 million feet of film, the cast spent six weeks learning to roller skate, a train was rerouted, and there was a minimum of 32 takes per scene. Just some of the excesses on the production of the movie Heaven's Gate   (denofgeek.com) divider line 49
    More: Asinine, Michael Cimino, gate, United Artists, angle excess, music production, Kris Kristofferson, cutting room floor, Kalispell  
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3381 clicks; posted to Entertainment » on 27 Mar 2014 at 1:04 PM (22 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-03-27 11:40:25 AM
I've tried watching Heaven's Gate to see if it was as terrible as the legends say it is, or if it just got a bad rap because it was such a box office bomb.

It's as terrible as its reputation suggests.  It's not even bad in a fun way.  It' has a a really palpable sense of pretension to it, like you can almost ear Cimino screaming "THIS IS THE BEST farkING FILM OF ALL TIME!' In every scene.
 
2014-03-27 11:54:44 AM
As a film fanatic the one thing Heaven's Gatetaught me is to never take critic's reviews as gospel.  This film was critically stomped out of the gate by every top reviewer and publication in America so it became vogue to try to out snub each other and the movie.

Personally, I loved it and can't wait to visit the Criterion re-release.  Is it ridiculously over the top? At times, but I laugh when people call it an "overblown epic" that phrase always struck me as an oxymoron. I don't know of too many subtle and subdued underblown epics.

Maybe too much style over substance?  Yes it is.  It is also probably one of the most gorgeously shot films every made.
 
2014-03-27 01:08:37 PM

jake_lex: I've tried watching Heaven's Gate to see if it was as terrible as the legends say it is, or if it just got a bad rap because it was such a box office bomb.

It's as terrible as its reputation suggests.  It's not even bad in a fun way.  It' has a a really palpable sense of pretension to it, like you can almost ear Cimino screaming "THIS IS THE BEST farkING FILM OF ALL TIME!' In every scene.


In other words... he made it exactly the same way as he made The Deer Hunter.   I guess having DeNiro and Merryl Streep makes people accept the pretension better.
 
2014-03-27 01:17:08 PM

T.rex: jake_lex: I've tried watching Heaven's Gate to see if it was as terrible as the legends say it is, or if it just got a bad rap because it was such a box office bomb.

It's as terrible as its reputation suggests.  It's not even bad in a fun way.  It' has a a really palpable sense of pretension to it, like you can almost ear Cimino screaming "THIS IS THE BEST farkING FILM OF ALL TIME!' In every scene.

In other words... he made it exactly the same way as he made The Deer Hunter.   I guess having DeNiro and Merryl Streep makes people accept the pretension better.


I liked The Deer Hunter. My neighbors went off to Vietnam and came back hooked and wanted by the FBI. Last I heard they were all dead, some suicide, some murder, some accidental over-dose. No wives, no careers. I grew up different and later than them.
 
2014-03-27 01:17:15 PM
And yet, all I remember of that movie was a couple of pioneer women messing around with a big steaming pile of steer guts. Couldn't eat beef for six months after seeing that.
 
2014-03-27 01:19:04 PM
Final Cut: The Making and Unmaking of Heaven's Gate

(sfw)

/oh, how I miss the Trio channel.
 
2014-03-27 01:24:43 PM
i1.ytimg.com
 
2014-03-27 01:28:14 PM

TheShavingofOccam123: T.rex: jake_lex: I've tried watching Heaven's Gate to see if it was as terrible as the legends say it is, or if it just got a bad rap because it was such a box office bomb.

It's as terrible as its reputation suggests.  It's not even bad in a fun way.  It' has a a really palpable sense of pretension to it, like you can almost ear Cimino screaming "THIS IS THE BEST farkING FILM OF ALL TIME!' In every scene.

In other words... he made it exactly the same way as he made The Deer Hunter.   I guess having DeNiro and Merryl Streep makes people accept the pretension better.

I liked The Deer Hunter. My neighbors went off to Vietnam and came back hooked and wanted by the FBI. Last I heard they were all dead, some suicide, some murder, some accidental over-dose. No wives, no careers. I grew up different and later than them.


I'm not saying its a bad film... just saying its not better than Heaven's Gate.
 
2014-03-27 01:35:45 PM
The hamster budget was of the charts too...

Oh hang on, that was Heaven Can Wait...
 
2014-03-27 01:41:58 PM

T.rex: jake_lex: I've tried watching Heaven's Gate to see if it was as terrible as the legends say it is, or if it just got a bad rap because it was such a box office bomb.

It's as terrible as its reputation suggests.  It's not even bad in a fun way.  It' has a a really palpable sense of pretension to it, like you can almost ear Cimino screaming "THIS IS THE BEST farkING FILM OF ALL TIME!' In every scene.

In other words... he made it exactly the same way as he made The Deer Hunter.   I guess having DeNiro and Merryl Streep makes people accept the pretension better.


This.

The Deer Hunter is a faux antiwar movie for people who are willing to concede Vietnam was a clusterfark, but don't want to go as far as condemning us military policy. Cimino makes it pretty clear where he stands by ending the film with them all singing "God Bless America."

Or to put it another way, it was a far more mainstream and PC look at the war than  Apocalypse Now.
 
2014-03-27 01:45:47 PM
The negative impact of Heaven's Gate is massive. It killed United Artists, it killed the classic western, and it killed the notion of a director having absolute control over a movie.

And Michael Cimino learned nothing from this as he got attached to direct "Footloose" of all movies, getting fired for making ridiculous demands, such as an additional $250K. He could've killed Kevin Bacon's career before it really took off.
 
2014-03-27 01:58:00 PM
If "Heaven's Gate" had more cowbell, things might have been different.
 
2014-03-27 02:06:01 PM
Was wondering what became of Michael Cimino and it turns out the last feature film he's made was way back in 1996 called Sunchaser, which bombed.  In fact, every movie he made since Deer Hunter has bombed.
 
2014-03-27 02:12:53 PM

thornhill: T.rex: jake_lex: I've tried watching Heaven's Gate to see if it was as terrible as the legends say it is, or if it just got a bad rap because it was such a box office bomb.

It's as terrible as its reputation suggests.  It's not even bad in a fun way.  It' has a a really palpable sense of pretension to it, like you can almost ear Cimino screaming "THIS IS THE BEST farkING FILM OF ALL TIME!' In every scene.

In other words... he made it exactly the same way as he made The Deer Hunter.   I guess having DeNiro and Merryl Streep makes people accept the pretension better.

This.

The Deer Hunter is a faux antiwar movie for people who are willing to concede Vietnam was a clusterfark, but don't want to go as far as condemning us military policy. Cimino makes it pretty clear where he stands by ending the film with them all singing "God Bless America."

Or to put it another way, it was a far more mainstream and PC look at the war than  Apocalypse Now.


Actually, The Deer Hunter is a cautionary tale about the postwar environment. Substitute Deutschland Uber Alles for God Bless America and you'll see what I mean. Hell, they're even hoisting beer mugs.  But I could be wrong. There hasn't been any hippie punching in American politics since then.
 
2014-03-27 02:15:11 PM
Heaven's Gate needed two things. 1) Lots less dancing and roller-skating. 2) An intelligible sound-track.  I suspect that there's a good movie in there, but since I've watched it twice without understanding 5 words, I could be mistaken.
 
2014-03-27 02:17:46 PM
Heaven's Gate wasn't that bad.

It also wasn't that good, especially considering the star-power he had at his disposal. A really bad movie will destroy the careers of the actors- that didn't happen.
 
2014-03-27 02:19:45 PM

yakmans_dad: Heaven's Gate needed two things. 1) Lots less dancing and roller-skating. 2) An intelligible sound-track.  I suspect that there's a good movie in there, but since I've watched it twice without understanding 5 words, I could be mistaken.


I think it's one of those movies that started going up it's own ass and couldn't stop.  I imagine the original idea was decent but then Cimino just kept adding things in, becoming more and more convinced that bigger and longer meant better.
 
2014-03-27 02:21:17 PM
I actually have The Sicilian on dvd, I don't know why or how it came to be in my possession but it's a mess of a movie.  A straight up documentary of Salvatore Giuliano would have been much better. The acting (Christopher Lambert, give me a break) is about as bad as it gets.

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot and The Deer Hunter were good movies though, too bad he won those Oscars, might have put out better movies if he didn't get a case of the fat head.
 
2014-03-27 02:22:18 PM
For those who haven't seen Heaven's Gate I would recommend The Milagro Beanfield War instead. Numerous similarities, including Walken as a hired gun, and unlike HG it doesn't drag and is both funny and fun to watch without taking away from the serious nature.
 
2014-03-27 02:26:48 PM
Year of the Dragon is also interesting. Brilliant in parts, stupid in others and horribly racist in the remaining.
 
2014-03-27 02:28:44 PM
I guess that the issue with Heaven's Gate is something similar with Waterworld.

Both where gigantic productions and among the most expensive movies made considering their time... and both are just kinda meh...

A movie that huge should be either a masterpiece or an atrocious mess... but meh?

/Haven't seen Heaven's Gate in ages...
 
2014-03-27 02:28:46 PM
Looks like he's gone "Full Jenner" at age 75:

i.imgur.com

That's not plastic surgery to look younger... that's plastic surgery to dress up like a hooker and hang out at the bar trying to pick up drunk sailors.
 
2014-03-27 02:29:50 PM
Imagine the studio executives' horror, then, when Cimino presented them with a work print that weighed in at an eye-watering five hours and 25 minutes.
"It's a little long," a hollow-eyed and visibly exhausted Cimino conceded. "I can lose maybe 15 minutes..."



 LOL... I like these kinds of stories. Apparently The Quiet Man was a little long, the studio insisted that it not be a second over 2 hours. They weren't going to budge, so John Ford got his movie ready and showed the final cut to studio brass. 2 hours clocks in as the middle of the climactic fist fight with John Wayne. Halfway through that, it was over. The bigwigs were asking John Ford WTF was going on, and he informed them that nothing could be cut from the film, and that was where his 2 hour window was at. He got his extra time.

It was really only a few minutes he was asking for anyway, but they wanted to be dicks about it.
 
2014-03-27 02:34:54 PM

brap: As a film fanatic the one thing Heaven's Gatetaught me is to never take critic's reviews as gospel.   This film was critically stomped out of the gate by every top reviewer and publication in America so it became vogue to try to out snub each other and the movie.

Personally, I loved it and can't wait to visit the Criterion re-release.  Is it ridiculously over the top? At times, but I laugh when people call it an "overblown epic" that phrase always struck me as an oxymoron. I don't know of too many subtle and subdued underblown epics.

Maybe too much style over substance?  Yes it is.  It is also probably one of the most gorgeously shot films every made.


Kind of what happened with The Lone Ranger. Not the best movie ever made, but not anywhere near as bad as I was led to expect. That one was being panned before it was even finished, apparently. I really wish that we could trust the people who are telling us if movies, TV shows and theater productions are any good. Sure, we can make up our own minds, but that costs money. Besides, that's what these people are paid to do.

It's why I listen to what multiple critics and the viewers are saying, pay attention to how well it's doing. At least with movies. If I wait too long on a TV Show, I miss the premiere and half of the season. Thank God I can DVR shows now.
 
2014-03-27 02:38:43 PM

LesserEvil: Looks like he's gone "Full Jenner" at age 75:

[i.imgur.com image 412x594]

That's not plastic surgery to look younger... that's plastic surgery to dress up like a hooker and hang out at the bar trying to pick up drunk sailors.


Wow, just wow!!

hoycanelones.com.uy
 
2014-03-27 02:40:01 PM
Out of curiosity, what is a typical amount of film to shoot? Im sure it varies, just looking for a ballpark figure.
 
2014-03-27 02:48:09 PM
Cocaine is a helluva drug
 
2014-03-27 03:00:22 PM
There are times in HG where someone is riding a horse across the fields. The rider is on a black horse, say, with snow in the distance. Next shot, which should be moments later, the horse is brown and the snow is gone.

Garbage like that is all through HG. It isn't funny, it's just a waste. A fun bad movie is one you can MST and enjoy, like Plan 9 from Outer Space. HG is like spending hours rinsing out portapotties or digging through mountains of dirty socks.
 
2014-03-27 03:22:11 PM
Dances With Wolves is on the TV as I speak. Tatanka!

/apropos of nothing
 
2014-03-27 03:35:12 PM

miniflea: Out of curiosity, what is a typical amount of film to shoot? Im sure it varies, just looking for a ballpark figure.


I went to film school (but never really did much film work after graduation).  From what I remember the average is around 6 times the final product.  So a typical 90 minute film would have 540-ish minutes of raw film to work from.
 
2014-03-27 03:36:11 PM

miniflea: Out of curiosity, what is a typical amount of film to shoot? Im sure it varies, just looking for a ballpark figure.


Well, 1.3 million feet was over 220 hours, according to the article. There are directors that can get by on a 3:1 shooting ratio, meaning that they might shoot 6 hours for a 2 hour movie. I can't remember what the average is, but I don't think it's as much as even 5:1, so 1.3 million divided by 220 is 5,909, so probably 6,000 ft per hour to be safe. I would think an average movie would have between 18,000 feet and 30,000 feet, if I haven't fat-fingered something somewhere.
 
2014-03-27 03:38:57 PM

Khazar-Khum: There are times in HG where someone is riding a horse across the fields. The rider is on a black horse, say, with snow in the distance. Next shot, which should be moments later, the horse is brown and the snow is gone.

Garbage like that is all through HG. It isn't funny, it's just a waste. A fun bad movie is one you can MST and enjoy, like Plan 9 from Outer Space. HG is like spending hours rinsing out portapotties or digging through mountains of dirty socks.


There were hints of this habit of his in The Deer Hunter, but nobody noticed.  A great one from the IMDB goofs: "The deer that Michael kills in the hunting scene is not the same species as the one that is strapped to the hood of the Cadillac when the hunting party arrives back into town."

Oh, and never mind that they were from farking Pennsylvania and somehow ended up hunting European stags in the Cascades.  And got home in time for dinner.
 
2014-03-27 03:42:39 PM
Saw the 'Director's Cut' on Sundance (?) last year.

Truly un-impressive.

Lots of actors without the presence to carry such a film (Kris Kristopherson(sp) to start) and the beginning that takes place at a college graduation (a scene that goes on for too long) to the ending on a yacht.

Not terrible like 'Killer Klowns From Outer Space' but terrible in it being too long, too 'epic', so-so acting and not enough story.

I can't imagine what his working version was like.
 
2014-03-27 03:50:21 PM

madgonad: Heaven's Gate wasn't that bad.

It also wasn't that good, especially considering the star-power he had at his disposal. A really bad movie will destroy the careers of the actors- that didn't happen.


Maybe his career wasn't destroyed since he continued to be a successful singer-songwriter, but Kris Kristofferson's run as a leading man in Hollywood were definitely cut short as a result of this film.

Although the documentary was mentioned, I'd also recommend the book version of Final Cut.  It provides a perfect example of slipperly-slope decisionmaking leading to disaster.
 
2014-03-27 03:51:18 PM

Confabulat: Dances With Wolves is on the TV as I speak. Tatanka!

/apropos of nothing


I still use Dances With Wolves as an estimate of time, as in "How many times would I be able to watch Dances With Wolves before I get to New Orleans" or "Jesus, I'm going to be stuck in the Port Authority for another five Dances With Wolves!"
 
2014-03-27 03:51:21 PM
A friend of mine gave the perfect review of Heaven's Gate, "Its an incredibly long film where you wait for something to happen and it never does."

 The movie is beautiful but empty, Historically it is a mess. In the  actual range war less than a dozen people were killed not the hundreds in Cimino's movie. He transported twentieth century politics back to the  nineteenth century. He was making a VERY ham-fisted political statement as well as making a movie.We get it Michael, land owning capitalists are bad the proletariat are the good guys. There are many more subtle ways to get your point across.
 
2014-03-27 03:52:29 PM

NDP2: Maybe his career wasn't destroyed since he continued to be a successful singer-songwriter, but Kris Kristofferson's run as a leading man in Hollywood were was definitely cut short as a result of this film.


Oops.

/FTFM
 
2014-03-27 04:04:13 PM

NDP2: Although the documentary was mentioned, I'd also recommend the book version of Final Cut. It provides a perfect example of slipperly-slope decisionmaking leading to disaster.


It's an example of what happens when a production gets completely out of control and things get so bad that the director of the film has more power than the head of the studio.  Other examples? Waterworld and Titanic (though everyone pretends that they knew Titanic was going to work out fine).
 
2014-03-27 04:18:14 PM

miniflea: Out of curiosity, what is a typical amount of film to shoot? Im sure it varies, just looking for a ballpark figure.


500,000 feet of film were printed for the 2hrs 56mins of The Godfather (part 1).

Original budget: $1 million
Final budget: $6.2 million
 
2014-03-27 04:40:54 PM

miniflea: Out of curiosity, what is a typical amount of film to shoot? Im sure it varies, just looking for a ballpark figure.


For film, I would say a 4:1 ratio. That is, four reels of film shot for every reel that makes it into the cut, or four takes per setup. This cuts down on film cost.

Unfortunately, since so much is shot digitally now, directors think they can break this rule. They can't. Cost of production time is more expensive than cost of film. In other words... To directors, do your pre-production and have it lined up and set before you shoot the first frame.

/yes, I've done 1st AD work on indie projects. Why do you ask?
 
2014-03-27 04:45:50 PM

yakmans_dad: Heaven's Gate needed two things. 1) Lots less dancing and roller-skating. 2) An intelligible sound-track.  I suspect that there's a good movie in there, but since I've watched it twice without understanding 5 words, I could be mistaken.


That's what aggravated me. When you are watching the movie, there are dozens of reasons why it should be great. However, every single one of those elements misses a step.
 
2014-03-27 04:54:50 PM

gravethoughts: miniflea: Out of curiosity, what is a typical amount of film to shoot? Im sure it varies, just looking for a ballpark figure.

For film, I would say a 4:1 ratio. That is, four reels of film shot for every reel that makes it into the cut, or four takes per setup. This cuts down on film cost.


To add to the fun on Heaven's Gate, I believe

Cimino was demanded that every take be printed for the dailies, and they were turning the dailies around in 24 or 48 hours even though it meant charter flights to Wyoming each way!
 
2014-03-27 04:57:47 PM

gravethoughts: miniflea: Out of curiosity, what is a typical amount of film to shoot? Im sure it varies, just looking for a ballpark figure.

For film, I would say a 4:1 ratio. That is, four reels of film shot for every reel that makes it into the cut, or four takes per setup. This cuts down on film cost.

Unfortunately, since so much is shot digitally now, directors think they can break this rule. They can't. Cost of production time is more expensive than cost of film. In other words... To directors, do your pre-production and have it lined up and set before you shoot the first frame.

/yes, I've done 1st AD work on indie projects. Why do you ask?


My favorite indie film story is the one of John Sayles on Return of the Secaucus Seven. He had a pan shot in a bar and couldn't hire any more extras. So, as the camera panned down the bar some of the extras that had just been photographed had to run around behind the camera and then take up a position at the other end of the bar. Not only couldn't he hire any more extras, he couldn't buy any more film. That's dedication.
 
2014-03-27 05:00:56 PM

Delawheredad: A friend of mine gave the perfect review of Heaven's Gate, "Its an incredibly long film where you wait for something to happen and it never does."

 The movie is beautiful but empty, Historically it is a mess. In the  actual range war less than a dozen people were killed not the hundreds in Cimino's movie. He transported twentieth century politics back to the  nineteenth century. He was making a VERY ham-fisted political statement as well as making a movie.We get it Michael, land owning capitalists are bad the proletariat are the good guys. There are many more subtle ways to get your point across.


That wasn't the point of the movie, imo. Kristofferson played a well-meaning liberal who stuck his nose in where it wasn't wanted. After all the blood, he just fled back East. The trouble between the farmers and the cattlemen was their affair. They didn't ask the liberal from East for any help. YMMV.
 
2014-03-27 05:04:57 PM

yakmans_dad: gravethoughts: miniflea: Out of curiosity, what is a typical amount of film to shoot? Im sure it varies, just looking for a ballpark figure.

For film, I would say a 4:1 ratio. That is, four reels of film shot for every reel that makes it into the cut, or four takes per setup. This cuts down on film cost.

Unfortunately, since so much is shot digitally now, directors think they can break this rule. They can't. Cost of production time is more expensive than cost of film. In other words... To directors, do your pre-production and have it lined up and set before you shoot the first frame.

/yes, I've done 1st AD work on indie projects. Why do you ask?

My favorite indie film story is the one of John Sayles on Return of the Secaucus Seven. He had a pan shot in a bar and couldn't hire any more extras. So, as the camera panned down the bar some of the extras that had just been photographed had to run around behind the camera and then take up a position at the other end of the bar. Not only couldn't he hire any more extras, he couldn't buy any more film. That's dedication.


I wouldn't call it dedication. I'd say it was a director adapting to the reality of production and adapting to the situation. And I respect Sayles for that.
 
2014-03-27 05:38:05 PM

Sinbox: Final Cut: The Making and Unmaking of Heaven's Gate

(sfw)

/oh, how I miss the Trio channel.


I have to remind myself that not everyone has seen that or else I might not see the point of this rehash article. I like the film except for the scenes at Harvard that drag on way too long. It's like the Deerhunter wedding scene taken another five more levels of "too much". Love the soundtrack -- the rollerskating scene is great for some interesting musician cameos, as I recall. Good cast -- among other things, it's kind of rare to see Sam Waterson play such a weasel.
 
2014-03-27 08:34:02 PM
Bith Set Me Up: The negative impact of Heaven's Gate is massive. It killed United Artists, it killed the classic western, and it killed the notion of a director having absolute control over a movie.

And Michael Cimino learned nothing from this as he got attached to direct "Footloose" of all movies, getting fired for making ridiculous demands, such as an additional $250K. He could've killed Kevin fried Bacon's career before it really took off.

/ftfy
 
2014-03-27 08:54:14 PM
gravethoughts:

snippetty

/yes, I've done 1st AD work on indie projects. Why do you ask?

My favourite job. I have this weird fascination with the paperwork - script breakdown, scheduling, call sheets, etc. Some directors even let you call "Action". To watch your carefully planned shoot all come together - it's quite a buzz, even when things don't work out as planned.

But you've GOT to have it all ready to go, including contingency plans for weather, accidents, etc.
 
2014-03-27 09:48:32 PM

T.rex: I'm not saying its a bad film...


All me to say it: The Deer Hunter is a bad film. It has some excellent performances, but it's glacially paced with no redeeming reason for it to be -- see Sergio Leone for how to have glacial pacing and make it work (Once Upon A Time In America) -- is heavy-handed and ham-fisted, and has its head so far up its own rear end it suffocates the entire film.

Truly one of the most overpraised films of the last 50 years.
 
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